Hospice Misconceptions

The Truth about Nine Common Hospice Misconceptions

What are your beliefs and expectations about hospice care?  We understand that there are many questions about hospice and how it will impact you and your loved ones. Read through these common misconceptions (and truths) to find out how Residential Hospice provides the exceptional care patients need to maintain their personal dignity, safety and quality of life.

Misconception #1 – Death is inevitable in a few days or in exactly six months.

TRUTH: Hospice does not mean that death is imminent. Yes, hospice is an end-of-life service, but we focus on criteria that a patient must meet to qualify. Though Primary Care Physicians sign a document that if the disease should run its normal course the patient has six months or less to live, sometimes it doesn’t run its “normal” course and a patient can continue on hospice for longer than six months.

Misconception #2 – I will stop being active and be confined to a bed.

TRUTH: With Residential Hospice, we continue exercises from home care if patients can tolerate it. We walk with patients and provide range of motion exercises if it is right for the patient. We encourage patients to be active, if that is their goal.

Misconception #3 – All of my current treatments will stop.

TRUTH: This depends on whether the current treatment is RELATED or UNRELATED to the hospice diagnosis.  If it is related to the patient’s hospice diagnosis, we provide different treatment with the goal of comfort.  Massage Therapy and Music Therapy take the place of Physical, Occupational or Speech Therapy.  A patient can continue aggressive treatment for anything that is not related to the hospice diagnosis.

Misconception #4 – I will be taken off all of my medications immediately.

TRUTH: When hospice begins, we do NOT stop a patient’s current medications. Rather, the Residential nurse will evaluate the patient’s current medication plan and will educate the family about side effects associated with each medication. At that point, it is decided together whether or not to continue medications. This is an example of how involved patients and their family members remain in guiding the plan of care.

Misconception #5 – I can’t see my doctor anymore.

TRUTH: The Primary Care Physician is still very much involved in hospice.  He or she continues to oversee the patient’s care.  Patients gain a second physician in the form of the Residential Hospice Medical Director. Our Medical Director can make house calls when needed to make the patient more comfortable.

Misconception #6 – Hospice is a unit where one must go to get service.

TRUTH: Hospice will provide services wherever a patient is considered “home.” This could be a residence, independent living, assisted living, skilled nursing home, etc. On rare occasion when a patient’s pain or symptoms are out of control and they meet criteria for inpatient care, we can even see them in a hospital setting.

Misconception #7 – Morphine starts the minute hospice starts.

TRUTH: Yes, morphine is a drug we use in hospice, but only in certain situations. Did you know morphine can ease a patient’s breathing when they are having a lot difficulty and make them very comfortable? We use it for this reason and for pain. Our Registered Nurses are experts in knowing when the time is right for morphine and achieve wonderful outcomes when it is administered.

Misconception #8 – I must have a DNR in order to qualify.

TRUTH: Medicare does not allow anyone to force a patient to have a DNR (Do Not Resuscitate) order.  Our team will educate the patient and caregivers on what it means to have a DNR (or not) and will support whatever decision is made.

Misconception #9 – As a caregiver, I am alone in taking care of my loved one.

TRUTH: One of the first things we tell a family is that we support them as caregivers – we don’t take their place. Thanks to Medicare, we are able to be in the home more often than home care. Though we cannot be in the home 24 hours a day, between all the members of the team, we are likely to be in a home every day of the week. Sometimes, if a family member needs to run an errand, our Home Health Aide can extend a visit, or we can arrange to have a volunteer sit for a few hours. If the family does need more caregiver help, our Social Worker works with them to set up private duty (if finances allow), reach out to family or friends for help or look into placement at a facility.